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Are Your Backlinks Hurting Your Website’s Rankings?

A Guide To Doing Your Own Backlink Analysis


google disavow and backlink analysis guide
Link acquisition plays an important role in your internet marketing plan. The process should involve signing your business up for local directories such as Google, Yellow Pages, and Bing, as well as creating quality content while will incline other websites to link to your pages as resources/references. While the majority of the links pointing back to your website are ones that you have acquired throughout your internet marketing journey, some are created without any notice. If you break down this percentage of links, you’ll find that a portion of them are of pretty decent quality, while the others are simply spam.

“Spammy”, toxic links can hinder your link building efforts and affect your website’s rankings. While a small number of these toxic links (for example, pornography related spam) pointing to your site won’t pose a dramatic effect, you should still evaluate your backlink profile to clean these links out. An accumulation of these toxic links will eventually affect your website performance–even lead to a Google penalty.

Think of it this way: consider your website to be a boat sailing to its destination (the destination being a sweet spot in search engine rankings). A toxic link, in this case, is an anchor. Now, one or a few of these anchors won’t sink your boat. However, if you continue to drag these anchors along without cutting them loose, your boat will lose speed and even sink (or fall in rankings). The more anchors you have dragging your boat down, the deeper you’ll sink – which will lead to the destruction of your ship (where Google penalties rule the ocean floor).

The lower your website falls in rankings, the harder it’ll be to rise back up. A large accumulation of toxic links could even lead to your website facing a Google penalty.

So, what should you do to avoid this? Perform a backlink analysis and toxic link removal. Here at Clicc Media Inc, we perform quarterly backlink analysis for our clients. This way, we are able to remove any toxic links pointing back to their website, helping us ensure that they maintain healthy back link profile. Below we have outlined a process you can use to perform your own backlink analysis and toxic link removal and disavow.

Contents

  1. Accessing & Organizing Latest Links
    • Organizing Your Backlink Analysis Excel Sheet
  2. Determining Toxic Links
  3. Request For Link Removal
  4. Google Disavow
    • Preparing The Disavow File
    • Submitting To Google Disavow

1. Analyzing Your Latest Links

The first step is to download your website’s latest links.

  • Log in to your website’s Webmaster Tools and click on your website
  • Click “Search Traffic” on the left-hand menu
    • Click on “Links To Your Site” in the sub-menu
    • Under “Who Links The Most” click on the link that says “more”
      • Then click on “Download Latest Links”
    • An excel file will automatically download – open once fully downloaded

A. Organizing Your Backlink Analysis Excel Sheet

When you open the excel document, in the first tab you will see a list of the latest backlinks that your website has acquired. The following steps will help organize your worksheet to better identify which links are good and which ones are toxic.

  • In the open “Latest Links” excel sheet, rename the first tab to “WMT Links”
    • Delete the first row and “Column B”, so all you have left are the URLs
      • Save your excel file and label it “website name-monthyear-link-analysis.xlsx”
        • Example: cliccmedia-september2015-link-analysis.xlsx
  • Make a Copy of the “WMT Links” tab and rename it to “Stripped Domains”
    • Stripped domains means that we will strip the full url and leave just the domain name.
    • Your full urls will be in column A – in column B (cell B1) past the following code: =IF(ISERROR(FIND(“//www.”,A2)), MID(A2,FIND(“:”,A2,4)+3,FIND(“/”,A2,9)-FIND(“:”,A2,4)-3), MID(A2,FIND(“:”,A2,4)+7,FIND(“/”,A2,9)-FIND(“:”,A2,4)-7))
      • As you will see it has stripped the full url from cell A1 down to just the domain
    • Then copy the formula down the rest of column to strip the rest of the urls
    • Once all URLs have been stripped, highlight all the domains in Column B – right click to copy and then right click to “Paste Values”
    • Then completely Delete Column A
  • Once all urls have been stripped down, you will need to eliminate all duplicate domains
    • Highlight the column, click on the “Data” tab and then “Remove Duplicates”
      • A pop-up will show, stating how many duplicates have been removed and how many original remain
    • Make a copy of your “Stripped Domains” tab and rename it “Toxic Domains”

2. Determining Toxic Links

Once you have organized your link analysis excel sheet, you can begin to analyze the links.

  • Under the “Toxic Links” tab, do a manual run-through to see which domains are obviously considered good (i.e Google.com, yahoo.com, yellowpages.com etc)
    • Remove those domains from this specified tab because you do not want to cut ties with them

Next, you are going to evaluate which remaining links are “rel=nofollow”. NoFollow links are not counted by Google, so these do not have to be manually removed nor submitted to disavow. This next part is time consuming, but it needs to be done carefully as you do not want to remove any quality links that are pointing to your website.

  • Under the “Toxic Domains” tab copy the first domain on your list
  • Switch over to your “WMT Links” tab and do a Ctrl + F, to find the complete url of that domain
  • Copy and paste the url into a browser window (Chrome, Mozilla, Explorer – your choice)
    • Once the page the has loaded do a Ctrl + U (or right click “View Page Source”)
    • Once the “Page Source” has opened and loaded do a Ctrl + F for your domain name (i.e. cliccmedia.com) – this will highlight where your domain is listed on the page
    • Search for your highlighted domain within the “Page Source”. Once you locate it, look for the (a href) code – an (a href) code, is used to create hyperlinks
      • Within the (a href) code look for a “rel=nofollow” – if the code contains a “nofollow”, then you can ignore the link completely (i.e [a href=”http://cliccmedia.com” “rel=nofollow”])
      • If it does not contain a “rel=nofollow”, then evaluate the website and the actual linking page for any high alert spam factors. Consider whether the link is benefitting the quality of your backlink profile vs. hindering it
      • If the website looks “spammy”, then make note of it in your link analysis excel sheet. Create a new tab and label it “Toxic Links” and copy/paste all complete urls of that specific domain from your “WMT Links” to this new tab (this will be needed later to request removal).
        • Tip #1: you can use Moz’s Spam Analysis tool to help determine link quality
        • Tip #2: If you are unsure if some domains are toxic or not, use Link Detox to help determine
      • If it looks like a strong quality link then remove the domain from your “Toxic Domains” tab
      • If a domain is unavailable or not found then make a note of it – this will be needed later for disavow purposes
    • Repeat this process for the rest of the domains

Note: As you perform this manual evaluation, make note of which domains are unavailable, not found, etc as this can be used later if a disavow file needs to be submitted.

3. Request For Link Removal

Once you have evaluated your links and have determined which ones are toxic, it’s time for you to reach out to the webmaster of each domain and request for them to remove any links that are leading back to your website. Keep in mind that response time between each webmaster varies– some can respond within hours while others might take days, weeks or not respond at all. We suggest attempting to reach out to the webmaster at least three times before submitting a site to Google Disavow.

To contact the webmaster:

  • Go to the contact page of the website and search for an email listed on the site’s footer
  • Perform a search on www.whois.net
  • Contact the website’s hosting company

Once you have acquired the webmaster’s contact information, write them an email stating that you would like to remove the links listed from pointing to your website. This is where you will copy and paste all of the complete URLs from that specific domain onto the email so they know which links you’re referring to.

If a webmaster has responded back with a successful removal, then make a note on your link analysis excel sheet within the “Toxic Domains” tab or just remove the domain altogether from the list.

4. Google Disavow

If your attempts at contacting certain webmasters have failed, your next step should be to submit those links to Google Disavow. The disavow tool allows you to submit individual links or the entire domain. We suggest submitting the domain because, if you know if it’s a toxic site, you might as well eliminate it from pointing to your site instead of taking the risk of missing some toxic urls.

A. Preparing The Disavow File

How to prepare your .txt document for disavow:

  • Open your link analysis excel sheet to the “Toxic Domains” tab
    • Make sure you have determined the status of the domain as functional and toxic, unavailable, not found, etc.
      • This is because, when you submit your disavow file, you want to group the same statuses together
        • For example, you will add the following statement on top of working toxic domains: #The following domains do not adhere to Google’s guidelines
        • The following statement would be added to domains that are unavailable: #The following domains are not available
        • You can create your own statements on the disavow document. These statements are more for your notes and to keep track of the type of domains you have submitted.
      • You can download SEO Tools for Excel to help you determine the status of a domain (but we still like to check manually just in case). They offer great documentation and walk-thru’s for your to follow
  • Once you have determined the status of the domains and grouped them by their status, add the following formula =”Domain:”&A1 in “Column B (cell B1)”
    • This will add Domain: to all of the listed domains which is what you need to tell Google that these are the domains you would like to remove
    • Copy the formula to the rest of column to apply to the remaining URLs
      • Note: Make sure you only have the root domains – meaning there are no www. before any of the domains (example: Domain:sample.com and NOT Domain:www.sample.com)

Highlight all of the domains in “Column B”, right click to copy and then right click to “Paste Values”

    • Delete “Column A”
  • Open a new .txt file
  • At the top of the document, add #This disavow was prepared by Add Your Name on add date
    • Example: #This disavow was prepared by Clicc Media Inc on September 28, 2015
  • Copy the domains, add their corresponding status statements, and paste right underneath
  • Save file “websitename-monthyear-disavow.txt”
clicc disavow sample file

B. Submitting To Google Disavow

  • Open the Google Disavow Tool
  • Select your website from the drop down
    • Make sure you select the correct site (i.e whether it’s www or non-www)
  • Click “Disavow Links”
  • Select your .txt document and submit
disavow txt file example

We Can Help Make The Whole Process Easier!

While this process takes time to execute, evaluating your backlink profile is a huge benefit to your internet marketing campaign. The more aware you are of your presence online, the more control you have of it. If you would like to review your backlinks but just don’t have the time, contact us today and we’ll be more than happy to do it for you. We have our own internal library of toxic domains that makes for a quicker and easier analysis. Contact us today at 954-271-3111 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation with us.

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